The Power of Horror
Robert E Dunn
My birthday, December 21st. That has me thinking. I’m not usually the guy that gets all introspective on a birthday but since I’m writing—
My novel, The Red Highway is a horror novel and today that fits perfectly with my thoughts about a birthday. The book takes place during the Los Angeles riots of 1992. I’m finding that many of the readers are younger people, younger than me that is, who do not have my clear memory of those days. That is the core of my personal history of horror. In my life, in any life really, there have been terrible things and moments of fear, agonizing loss, and those eternal nights of existential darkness. They go with me when I go. That is a strangely weird and fear inducing thought. No matter how hard I try to communicate the moments that have structured my life, the people I most need to remember me will only have the event or the echo of my reactions. It seems our terrors will always remain our own.
My children will hear stories, most of them sanitized or humorized—I think I invented a word. I have seen people die. I have watched the fine light of life dim from eyes I loved. And I have been involved in violence. Once getting more angered by the lack of response from the LAPD than the attempted rape of a neighbor that I found myself running straight into at 2 A.M. Three people got hurt that night but the responding officer, responding after forty-five minutes, wouldn’t even get out of his car. Just as well, the girl got away and I never had to tell anyone what happened to the attacker. In my life, there have been guns pointed at me five times. I am fortunate, in those times things went no further than hot words and the threat.
I say all this to point out that my life has been like the life of the world I have lived in. There has been violence and death, secrets and terror, and there has been the existentialism of our collective view into the void. Like me, the world I have lived in wants to be remembered but it needs more than a funny story of the time dad was surrounded by a swat team and the DEA. Collective memory, the real, genuine memory of a nation requires more than facts. It requires communication that goes beyond the personal story or the Texas School Board approved history book version of events. Truth requires art. It requires fiction to tell the truth that we can’t with news footage.
That is a big part of why I wrote The Red Highway. So many, no longer remember. The civil rights struggles of the 1960’s are becoming only old movies and something less when compared to the more recent fights for the same ground. We forget and we repeat. These days we have new fears and new people dying. I say, find their stories—tell them—share them. Keep them vivid with stories that never really happened but that show how the moments felt. I’m under no illusion that my book about monsters, sacrifice, and riot will stand for an era. I do hope it will convey a bit of the fear, confusion, and search for a blame we all, all who are old enough, experienced.
That’s the true power of writing horror. I can tell all the secrets in a way that let’s someone who missed the moment, share the glimpse into the dark pit.
Now I’d like to tell you about The Red Highway, a story that never happened but is completely true.
In January of 1992, the fading life of Paul Souther, a homeless veteran, is changed by two events. He witnesses a murder committed by a big black man who, for a moment, seemed to have wings. And, as Paul hides from the man in a XXX theater, Mary Prince, the adult actress on screen, begins to speak directly to him.
On the other side of the country, the real Mary encounters the same big man when she visits the site of the Rodney King beating. He infests her life and her mind then traps her in a mental health ward, impossibly, pregnant.
In LA, two other black men, a tabloid reporter, and a celebrity TV preacher, are on the trail of the same mysterious man. They follow the tracks of rage and race leading throughout the city. At every hot spot the man is seen pulling strings and spreading the message of race war.
Paul and a mix of outcasts are called to Mary’s side just as the baby is born. None of them have any idea that the city of LA is sitting on a ticking bomb of anger. As riots explode, the big man, who now claims to be a god, reveals himself to be an ancient, dark power using the rage of the people to stoke his own, literal, fires. He demands the child as sacrifice to keep the city, and perhaps the nation from burning. It falls to Paul, a faithless man, and a drunk with blood on his own hands, to make the impossible choice between a child or a city and to save the people he has come to care about.
Twenty years later, as the grown child is spreading her own message of practical faith, as protesters picket and shout a new hate, a mysterious man shows up in the new crowds.
This time his message is, God Hates Fags.
You can buy The Red Highway here:
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS ROBERT E DUNN
Robert Dunn (1960) was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novel, Behind the Darkness.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.
And for more about Robert, visit his site or find him on social media: